State officials have ruled that Christian bakers in Oregon acted unlawfully when they declined to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) investigated Aaron and Melissa Klein’s business ‘Sweet Cakes’ after lesbians Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman filed a complaint under the Oregon Equality Act 2007 in August last year.
The Kleins say they were exercising their constitutional right to religious freedom, as baking a cake to help celebrate a same-sex wedding would violate their Christian beliefs.
But a statement from the BOLI said it had found “substantial evidence of unlawful discrimination” in the case.
It continued, “the bakery is not a religious institution under law and that the business’ policy of refusing to make same-sex wedding cakes represents unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation”.
Mr and Mrs Klein received death threats and hate mail because of the incident, and were forced to move their business back to their home following loss of custom.
Mr Klein said in reaction to the ruling, “I’m not sure what future holds, but as far as where we’re at right now… it’s almost as if the state is hostile toward Christian businesses”.
He said last year: “I believe that marriage is a religious institution ordained by God. The Book of Genesis talks about that for this reason: A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. That, to me, is the beginning, the basis of marriage.”
The homosexual couple involved and the Kleins are to take part in a settlement process, but the BOLI said it may bring charges if an agreement can’t be made.
Herbert Grey, the lawyer representing the bakers, said his clients will maintain their original stance.
Same-sex marriage is illegal in Oregon, and in 2004 voters passed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Mr Grey said the Kleins are “being punished by the state of Oregon for refusing to participate in an event that the state of Oregon does not recognise”.